LA JOLLA, CA--Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute have discovered a potential new use for the drug closantel, currently the standard treatment for sheep and cattle infected with liver fluke. The new research suggests that the drug may be useful in combating river blindness, a tropical disease that is the world's second leading infectious cause of blindness for humans.
The study is scheduled for publication in an advance, online Early Edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) during the week of February 8, 2010.
The new research shows that clostanel has the potential to inhibit the molting process of the parasite that causes the disease.
"We think this finding holds terrific potential for the treatment of river blindness, one of 13 recognized neglected tropical diseases," says Scripps Research postdoctoral fellow Christian Gloeckner, the first author of the study.
Professor Kim Janda, who is director of the Worm Institute for Research and Medicine, Ely R. Callaway Chair in Chemistry, and member of The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at Scripps Research, adds that there is an urgency to fighting the infection that leads to river blindness, which is also known as onchocerciasis. Despite several eradication efforts, the disease affects more than 37 million people in Africa, Central and South America, and Yemen.
"Victims of onchocerciasis suffer severe skin lesions, musculoskeletal pain, and various stages of blindness," says Janda, adding that patients also experience decreased body mass index, decreased work productivity, and social stigmatization.
River blindness is caused by thread-like filarial nematode worms, Onchocerca volvulus, which are transmitted among humans through the bite of a black fly. The nematodes then multiply and spread throughout the body. When they die, they cause a strong immune system response that can destroy surroundi
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Scripps Research Institute